Browse The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives Home Page

American Line New York - Southampton Service via Plymouth and Cherbourg

Scarcely anything else brings so vividly to our minds the wonderful development and accomplishment of man’s ingenuity as a modem ocean greyhound. The four twin-screw steamers—as St. Louis, St. Paul, New York and Philadelphia —which maintain the fast express service between New York and Plymouth, Cherbourg and Southampton, represent the highest type of modern ship construction and equipment.

The call at Plymouth enables passengers (and the American mails) to reach London on special trains via the quickest route; while from Cherbourg, passengers and mails are conveyed to Paris on the American Line Special Train, carrying dining and lavatory cars. From Southampton—the final port—the run to London is made in one hour and forty minutes. The route is, therefore, an ideal one for those bound to either Great Britain or the Continent.

In the American Line steamships, the demands of modem travel have been met in all particulars. From keel to bridge and from stem to stem they are in every line perfect models of modem marine architecture. Structurally they are as staunch and safe as iron and steel can make them; and as to comfort, they are the embodiment of all the luxuries of the decorators and furnishers’ art.

At the same time, these excellent steamers are supplied with ponderous engines, which develop energy sufficient to bring them to their destination in spite of stress of wind and wave, with almost the same regularity that characterizes the scheduled running of express trains on shore. And, furthermore, nothing in the wav of safety has been sacrificed to speed—a statement supported by the fact that insurance companies assert that travel by water nowadays is, in reality, far safer than travel by land.


The St. Louis and St. Paul are the fastest and finest transatlantic steamers ever turned out of an American shipyard. The product of the William Cramp & Sons’ Ship and Engine Company of Philadelphia, they are a pride to the nation as well as to their builders, for the American Line is the only transatlantic steamship line flying the American flag, and is under contract with the United States Government to carry the United States mails.

Being  intended for fast mail service and for use as auxiliary cruisers in the event of war, they were constructed under certain specifications of the United States Government, in addition to the rigid requirements of Lloyds and the Bureau Veritas. When finished they passed a thorough inspection at the hands of government experts, and were found to meet the stipulations in every respect. The Government demanded a speed of twenty knots, which has been frequently exceeded in actual service.

The principal dimensions of these sister ships are: Length over all, 554 feet; length on water line, 535 feet; breadth of beam, 63 feet; molded depth, 42 feet; gross tonnage, 11,629. They have two masts and two funnels, and each has accommodations for 366 first-class, 200 second-class, and 800 third-class passengers; a total of 1366.

These steel vessels, built with double bottoms, are made up of seventeen independent sections, each division being an absolutely watertight compartment in itself. Transverse bulkheads extending from the keel upwards to the saloon deck, eighteen feet above the load water line, separate these.

Bilge keels, extending under water over half the length of the vessel, protrude from both sides of the hull like two great fins and tend to steady the ship in a sea-way.

The engine-rooms are as interesting as an art gallery. The engines themselves are of the quadruple expansion type, built in duplicate to drive a pair of immense propellers. The lifeboats and rafts are carried on the awning deck (reserved entirely for navigating purposes) where, without interference, they can be launched quickly and easily.

Ample walking space is provided on the promenade deck. 510 feet in length, and cozy alcoves or recesses in the sides of the deckhouse offer just enough retirement and space for steamer chairs where one may lounge in comfort, sheltered from the strong breezes.

Ladies and children find rest and quiet in the drawing room, with its softly cushioned divans, upholstered in light brocade of delicate figurement. The windows are gracefully draped with silken tapestries, and electric bulbs in the paneled ceiling softly illuminate the cabinetwork in ivory finish. This room is also provided with an excellent piano. Windows at the forward end command a fine view of the deck where one may watch the progress of the ship.

The smoking-room, also situated on the promenade deck, is handsomely finished in dark wood, with panels of blue, and leather fittings. It accommodates about 100 persons and is often the center of masculine interest.

Within the deckhouse and communicating with the promenade are sumptuously furnished suites of rooms, comprising bedroom, sitting room and bathroom. These, of course, are for those who desire the privilege of seclusion, with superb appointments. All the suites are furnished in attractive and harmonious color schemes, and represent the acme of luxurious ocean travel.

On the deck below the promenade is the dining-saloon whose spacious proportions can accommodate 366 persons, the ship’s entire complement of first-class passengers, with seats at one time.

This apartment is situated where there is the least motion—amidships, between the two funnels—and is lighted from above by a huge paneled dome of glass, artful in its curving proportions and color treatment, and extending the full length of the saloon. This dome, which has attracted universal admiration, extends to a height of twenty feet, with an arch span of fifty-three feet.

At the sides of the room, in place of the usual contracted port holes, are large rectangular windows assuring perfect ventilation. Small tables in place of the long ones so often found on trans-Atlantic steamers, have made the saloon unusually cozy in appearance.

The key-note of the decorative scheme throughout the ships is brilliance, and the light has been preserved by avoiding dark colors. The whole tone of the dining saloon is one of refinement. The wood employed is white mahogany, and the panels supporting the enormous glass dome represent sea nymphs disposed in attitudes of playful sports of the sea.

Two strikingly beautiful works of sculpture by the famous artist, Karl Bitter, adorn the ends of the saloon and are placed in the arched spaces under the glass dome. In the after space is a figure of Neptune grasping his trident in an attitude of supremacy over the tumultuous waves among which he is seated. At the forward end is a spirited scene, the principal figure of which is a graceful mermaid whose outstretched arms sustain the gallery of the saloon and above which are to be seen the gilded pipes of the great organ.

Directly forward of the dining-saloon opens the main companionway. A handsome double staircase with treads of easy ascent, from which the library is reached, a magnificent room finished in oak, said to be the largest apartment ever devoted to library purposes on a trans-Atlantic steamer. The bookshelves contain over one thousand choice works of literature, which are available to passengers at all times.

Abaft the main saloon are the pantries—separate ones for both the first and second-class. On these vessels, the kitchens—carefully isolated—constitute an interesting department. Models of modem convenience and cleanliness, they are under the command of experienced chefs who prepare appetizing and varied menus.

Immediately aft of these is the second-class saloon, ample and unusually commodious in its accommodations, and attractive in every way.

The extensive area of the upper and main decks is wholly allotted to passenger accommodations, the central sections being given over to first-class staterooms. These rooms are considerably larger than are usually to be found on board ship and are finished in white, kept spotlessly clean. The fittings always give sufficient variety to please the eye. The color scheme for the upholstery is steel blue for one deck and old gold for the other; and in the interest of absolute cleanliness, which is so essential to good health; there has been no effort at useless decoration.

The second-class rooms are placed immediately abaft the first-class, the quarters for third-class passengers being forward and aft of the first and second-class cabins. In reality the second-class apartments are as comfortable and as well ventilated as the first-class quarters on many other vessels, and their fittings are most attractive.

The ladies’ sitting room is tastefully finished in cherry, with paneling of appropriate colors and one of the most attractive rooms on the ship is the second class smoking-room, which is prettily furnished in birch and cherry. The dining saloon is a most handsome apartment, being beautifully upholstered and decorated. There is seating accommodation for 210 passengers.

A special part of the promenade deck is set apart where second-class passengers may enjoy exercise and recreation. Ventilation has always been one of the most serious problems of ship construction, but it has been solved in a most ingenious way on these vessels. A plant of Sturtevant blowers, located on the upper deck, maintains a steady but almost imperceptible breathing of fresh air from the ocean into all parts of the ship.

In cold weather, the air passes over steam pipes, and the heat so supplied may be regulated for each deck independently. Further, the passenger may control to a nicety the heat and ventilation in his own stateroom by means of valves, which are placed near the top and, bottom of every apartment. By this superior system, the inner rooms throughout the ship are kept as comfortable and fresh as the outer ones, and it is no longer necessary to run steam pipes through each cabin


The New York and Philadelphia are the embodiment of the best skill and workmanship and all that is modern and up-to-date in marine architecture. In safety, speed, and comfort they occupy the highest rank. The Philadelphia was rebuilt in 1901 by the famous firm of Belfast shipbuilders, Messrs. Harland & Wolff, Limited, and the William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Company, at Philadelphia, rebuilt the New York in 1903.

The principal dimensions of these two sister ships are as follows: Length over all, 576 feet; length on water line, 525 feet, breadth of beam, 63 feet; molded depth, 42 feet; gross tonnage 10,800; promenade deck, 550 feet in length. Both steamers, like the St. Louis and St. Paul, are constructed with bilge keels, which steady them materially when in a seaway.

The hulls are made with double bottoms throughout and Siemens-Martin steel was exclusively employed in the outer structure. Their safety is further assured by the sectional plan of construction, there being in each ship fifteen watertight divisions, each compartment about 35 feet long, separated by solid steel structural bulkheads of immense strength.

Each bulkhead extends up from the keel to the saloon deck, rising eighteen feet above the load water line. The staterooms of the first-class passengers occupy three watertight compartments in the central part of the vessel. Directly aft are two compartments set apart for the second-class passengers, while the spaces at bow and stem are devoted to third-class accommodations.

Three of the watertight compartments are reserved for the boilers and one for the engines, which are in duplicate, completely separated from each other by a longitudinal bulkhead, so that in case one set of machinery should be disabled, the ship could still proceed under the power of the other set.

Externally the New York and the Philadelphia are two of the most beautiful steamships afloat. Their lines are those of a yacht, with graceful, bowspritted stem and long overhang stem, each has three masts and two funnels.

The grandest internal feature of these ships is, beyond all doubt, the first-class dining saloon, which is located on the saloon deck. It is a room of noble proportions and extends almost entirely across the ship. Unlike on most steamers, the dining saloon is carried to an immense height, through two decks and a half, and is surmounted by a cathedral glass dome of magnificent design and exquisite coloring.

The full height is twenty feet, while the length of the arched roof is fifty-three feet, with a span of twenty-five feet. In this grand saloon there are dining places arranged for 271 passengers. At one end of the saloon, and under the gabled archway formed by the domed ceiling, is the grand organ loft which is accessible also from the promenade deck.

A beautiful oriel window occupies the other end, communicating with the ladies’ drawing room. The small tables in the center of the saloon, seating but a few passengers each, are disposed longitudinally with the length of the ship, and the revolving arm chairs are beautifully upholstered and most comfortable. Cozy-little alcoves are arranged around the sides of the saloon fitted with small athwart ship tables for those who seek home-like privacy.

Well-known artists have collaborated to decorate the saloon in a most charming manner. A white composition of peculiar ductility was used to garnish the woodwork of the arch and organ loft, and the paneling is gorgeously embellished by representations of dolphins, sea-nymphs and tritons, in graceful postures. A large clock is embedded in the front of the gallery, while a huge gilt lyre surmounts the encasement of the organ.

The drawing-room is a perfect gem, adorned and appointed with exquisite taste, and is a favorite haunt of the lady passengers in both fair weather and foul. The white paneled walls and ceiling, striped with gold, give light and brilliance in this apartment.

Plate-glass mirrors adorn the side walls; and the furniture of polished mahogany and red upholstery harmonizes perfectly with the polished oak floor and its Oriental coverings. An upright grand piano completes the apartment as a social center, and pleasant musicales are often held here.

Easy access is had to the promenade deck, with its comfortable steamer chairs and attractive sea-games. Leading up to the drawing-room, and at the after end of the main saloon, is the grand staircase, or main companionway. It rises by easy treads fro in a spacious vestibule opening on either side to the promenade deck.

On the after side of the stair hall is the lounge, another elegantly furnished apartment, oddly constructed in the form of an hourglass. This form secures an excellent light at all points of the room, and the titles of the thousand or more well-selected volumes invite the passenger to delve into their delights.

A wainscoting of oak is made interesting by including within the score or more panels the names of illustrious authors, while one’s attention is arrested by numerous quotations from sea poems, which are inscribed upon windows of stained glass at the sides of the room. Passengers may take books from the library at any time during the voyage.

The smoking-room, very handsomely and comfortably appointed, its dimensions being 45 feet long by 27 feet wide, is the retreat of the men who delight in the pleasures of tobacco.

There are numerous suites and deck cabins upon the promenade and saloon decks, many of them with private baths and lavatories in connection. The bedrooms in the suites are fitted with single and double beds, the berths being, as in a Pullman car, closed up during the day.

An awning deck protects the promenade deck, which extends practically the full length of the vessel, overhead, and lifeboats hang clear of everything at a height of eight feet.

The second-class dining saloon is a most inviting apartment 45 feet long and 40 feet wide, well ventilated and well lighted, providing places for 133 passengers. It contains a fine piano and a well-stocked library of choice books, and provides a pleasant place for concerts and entertainments of the second-class passengers. The ladies’ room and the smoking room in second-class are pleasantly situated upon the promenade deck.

The third-class passengers are located in suitable accommodations. Rooms containing two, four or six berths are provided for married couples and families, the berths being of metal, with woven-wire bottoms, ensuring perfect cleanliness. The Company provides comfortable beds and blankets.

Single men and women are berthed in separate compartments; and matrons attend mothers and young women travelling alone.

On the American Line steamers, large, well-ventilated dining rooms are provided for third-class passengers. These are also used as sitting rooms, and for the frequent evening entertainments a piano in the dining-room adds to the pleasure of the passengers.

The third-class sections are fitted throughout with excellent lavatory and bathroom accommodations and the whole deck, on both sides of the steamers, is reserved for third class passengers who desire to use it for exercise. The new ventilating system, already described as in service on the St. Louis and St. Paul, and which has proved so thoroughly effective and practical has also been installed on the New York and Philadelphia.

Source: International Mercantile Marine Company, "American Line, New York-Southampton Service," Facts For Travelers: American Line, Atlantic Transport Line, Dominion Line, Leyland Line, Red Star Line, White Star Line, 1908: P. 7-18.

Return to Top of Page

American Line | GG Archives

American Line Ephemera

Updates and Social Media

Copyright © 2000- Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives. All rights reserved. See Terms of Use.